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Do you really need that small shampoo bottle? 10 hotel tips from a frequent traveller

No matter how often you’ve stayed in a hotel, these tips will help you have a cleaner, safer, more relaxing stay in your next one.

Do you really need that small shampoo bottle? 10 hotel tips from a frequent traveller

Hotels might donate the soap to charity, so why take something that might get lost in your luggage or forgotten in your home medicine cabinet? (Photo: Unsplash)

I’ve lost count how many hotels I’ve stayed in. Hundreds, for sure, and on every continent except Antarctica. From beach-side resorts in St Kitts to a grand, soaring high-rise in Tokyo, to a castle-adjacent treehouse on the north coast of Scotland, I’ve stayed in some truly lovely places. I’ve also stayed at dilapidated dives in Vegas with rusty faucets and rugs so thin you could see the concrete underneath. The memory of the latter still makes me itch.

Over the years I’ve come up with a set of tips and tricks I use in every hotel, from 5-star to wear-your-shoes-in-the-bathroom-star. They range from a little peace of mind and a reduction of annoyance to maintaining a bit of safety and health while traveling.

1. THE REMOTE IS GROSS

What is touched by everyone but rarely cleaned? A quick swipe with some baby wipes or a damp (not wet) hand towel should help a bit.

2. 68 DEGREES FARENHEIT IS 20 DEGREES CENTIGRADE

Need to set the thermostat in your room but you’re confused? For anywhere outside the US, 20 degrees is a good place to start. In the US, it’s 68.

3. BE SKEPTICAL OF DRINKING GLASSES (ESPECIALLY IF THE HOTEL LACKS A RESTAURANT)

Generally, drinking glasses are cleaned after every guest. Generally. If there’s no on-site restaurant, though, how are they cleaned? By hand presumably, but how well? Give them a rinse and a sniff, at least.

Just because you’re staying in a posh hotel doesn’t mean there’s no risk of bed bugs. (Illustration: Lars Leetaru/The New York Times)

4. DON’T PUT YOUR LUGGAGE ON THE BED

Bed bugs are gross little vampires. Like mosquitoes, but worse. Putting your luggage on the bed can give them a free ride to your next location – like your house. The luggage rack might not be a good option either, since it’s usually close to the bed. Your best bet is to put your luggage in the bathroom and then give the bed, rack, and chair/sofa a close look. Also, don’t assume that just because hotel is super posh it won’t have bed bugs. They might have more means to get rid of the problem, but it can happen anywhere.

5. LONG CABLES FOR YOUR PHONE OR A TRAVEL POWER STRIP

As the number of devices needing to charge increases, the number of outlets available in hotel rooms… stays the same. I’ve stayed in new hotels with zero easily-accessible plugs. Mind blowing. Don’t forget to bring long micro-USB, lightning, and USB-C cables so you can plug in and still, hopefully, use your phone from the bed. Or opt for travel power strips so you can plug multiple devices into that one outlet you found behind the bed.

6. YOU CAN TAKE THE LITTLE SHAMPOO BOTTLES – BUT WILL YOU USE THEM?

Some hotels give the remaining soaps to charities like Clean the World. It’s worth checking if they do, as perhaps that’s a better use of the remaining soap than getting lost in your luggage or forgotten in your home medicine cabinet. Many hotels are moving toward large-bottle dispensers, both as a cost- and Earth-saving measure.

7. LOCK, LATCH, AND PUT OUT THE DO NOT DISTURB SIGN

Housekeeping comes early. Exactly 100 per cent of the time I’ve wanted to sleep in and forgot to put out the sign, housekeeping wakes me up. In how many languages do you know how to say “come back later, please?” For me, when woken from a deep slumber, a croaky none.

Enabling the safety latch also lets you open the door to see if it really is management knocking while preventing said knocker from unexpectedly opening the door fully. Exceptionally unlikely, sure, but why take the chance?

8. TAKE A PICTURE OF THE SAFE CODE

Even if you just use your birthday or something memorable in the moment, take a picture of the number you programme into the safe.

9. LAUNDRY IS EXPENSIVE

I travel for months at a time. I do laundry about once a week. At an expensive laundromat in Paris I paid 7 euros (S$10.67) for a load of all my clothes. While trapped at a hotel in Fiji during a typhoon I paid US$10 (S$13.75) for each pair of underwear.

You should definitely pack light enough that you’ll need to do laundry on any trip longer than a week. Some hotels, and nearly all hostels, have inexpensive laundry facilities on-site or nearby. The staff will usually help you find a place. There’s always washing in the sink too, which is free if you have the time.

10. STAY IN A HOSTEL INSTEAD

I’ve spent the majority of nights during my extended travels of the last five years in hostels. Hotels can be great, but they’re invariably expensive. Hostels probably aren’t what you think, and can be a great way to save money and meet new people.

By Geoffrey Morrison © 2019 The New York Times

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